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Identity and Limiting Beliefs

Identity and Limiting Beliefs


My son is currently in a spectacular production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. A few weeks ago, I met one of the female cast members for the first time, and we chatted about her experience. She said to me, “I’m not a singer or a dancer, but I’m having so much fun!” I immediately responded, “Oh yes you ARE a singer and a dancer! I see you up there singing and dancing your heart out!”

What made this cast member believe she wasn’t a singer or a dancer? An identity. “I am this, I’m not that.”

I get it – we tend to say we aren’t something when we feel we don’t have the skill or experience to claim a label in a certain area. And we want to make sure people have the right impression. But the truth is – there’s no objective criteria for most things in life. Labels can be so limiting.

As far as I know, a singer is someone who opens their mouth and a certain sound comes out. A dancer is someone who moves their body in an expressive way. There’s an entire spectrum from beginner to expert. But everyone who takes the first step IS a singer or a dancer.

(And by the way, I’ve seen some pretty inexperienced singers and dancers deliver knockout, Broadway-worthy performances!)

It’s OK to choose not to be certain things. I’m not a stockbroker, nor do I want to be. I’m not an Olympic weightlifter, or a marathoner. I’m cool with that.

But there are many things in life that would benefit us, or that we wish we could do, but we tell ourselves we can’t. Any time we stop ourselves only because we tell ourselves “I am this, I’m not that,” we limit our potential. But what can we do instead?

The secret lies in noticing our self-talk, reframing our limiting beliefs, and shifting our identity towards the type of person who CAN do the things we want to do. And then, of course, taking the steps to make our new identity a reality.

This is true in all areas of life, including our physical fitness.

The Boxes we Put Ourselves in

How many boxes do we put ourselves in regarding our physical fitness?

  • not athletic
  • not coordinated
  • not strong
  • not fit enough
  • can’t dance
  • too overweight
  • too flabby
  • too scrawny
  • too weak
  • too lazy and undisciplined
  • too old
  • bad knees
  • bad genes
  • don’t fit in

When we peel back the layers, there’s an identity underlying each of these beliefs. And that identity often serves as an excuse, holding us back, keeping us stuck in the box.

Chances are, if you’re not strong (however you define strength), it’s because you have taken this on as an identity AND you haven’t put in the reps – yet. If you “can’t dance,” you identify as a non-dancer and maybe you’ve never taken dance lessons or committed to a dance class. If you’re “too old,” maybe, just maybe, this is a little bit of an excuse and you’re more committed to your comfort zone than you are to mixing it up with people of all ages so you can stretch and grow.

If I’m hitting a nerve, it’s OK. We all have areas where we allow our self-imposed (and often parent-imposed and society-imposed) identity – along with a myriad of excuses – to hold us back from stepping into a higher version of ourselves. But it doesn’t have to stay this way.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

What would it look like if we turned some of this thinking around?

  • Overweight

Limiting belief: “I’ve let myself go. Might as well eat more snacks. What difference does it make?”

Empowering belief:  “I love myself the way I am AND I look forward to getting back to a thinner, healthier version of myself.”

  • Lazy and/or undisciplined

Limiting belief“I can’t commit to a gym. I always self-sabotage and give up. Who am I kidding?”

Empowering belief: “I’m going to start small and commit to baby steps. And I will hire a coach to help hold me accountable.” 

  • Not athletic or coordinated

Limiting belief: “That workout requires coordination and/or athleticism. I’ll never be able to do it.”

Empowering belief: “I’ll learn the moves one step at a time, and I’ll keep practicing.”

  • Bad genes

Limiting belief“I have a family history. It’s only a matter of time, so why bother?”

Empowering belief:  “It’s just a predisposition. I’m going to work hard to put the odds in my favor.”

  • Weak

Limiting belief: “Weight training is not for me. I’ll just embarrass myself.”

Empowering belief: I will start with lower weights and build up as I become stronger. We all start somewhere.”

Note that most of the limiting beliefs are at the subconscious level – but we accept them as truth! Make a conscious decision to flip your limiting beliefs into empowering ones! I guarantee you – your life will change for the better.

As you seek to become healthier in your body, remember how much of it starts in your mind. Notice your self-talk. Your limiting beliefs. Your excuses. Choose what you want things to look like, and start to change your mental chatter. Then go about DOING the things that support the type of person you wish to be.

Choose to stay consistent. Going to the gym once or twice doesn’t make us fit. It makes us sore.

But putting in the reps over and over again?

That helps make us strong, fit, athletic, coordinated, disciplined, confident – whatever it is you are trying to be.

So put on those workout shoes. Hire the trainer. Take the dance class. Learn how to use the weight machines. Talk to a nutritionist. Set your alarm for an early morning class. Say hello to the youngsters. Practice the moves. Put in the reps. And most importantly, reframe your inner chatter daily, as often as needed.

We get either excuses or results. It is an either-or proposition. Which one do you want?

 As for me? It’s time to lift some weights, then off to the show to watch my favorite singers and dancers light up the stage.

Alison is a Health & Life Coach at Merritt Clubs’ Nutrition and Wellness Department and a Les Mills BODYATTACK instructor.